Tag Archives: social media

Social Media Strategy Component for Success: Transparency

A social media marketing strategy is only as successful as its foundation. The foundation must be built upon solid goals and values and follow an overall commitment to the initiative. The goals can be determined based on the company business goals and the values must be part of the core. When it comes to social media, there are values that exist that will either make or break a social strategy.

The general commitment of a successful strategy is that a company and/or person must agree to be:

  • Honest
  • Relevant
  • Valuable
  • Committed
  • Transparent

Being honest means being straight forward and promoting reality. A social media outlet should never promote something that does not exist at a company, such as a fabricated internal environment or a false perception.

Relevant means keeping up to date with current trends and pop culture and using those ideas to leverage campaigns or updates.

Being valuable refers to providing great content users will be inclined to read, share and that will prompt them to engage through your intended outlets.

Committed is just that–a commitment to being social must be a priority so the existence in the social space does not go stale. There is no drifting in the world of social media. Being, doing, creating…that is what it is all about.

I find that most companies, with some strategic guidance are able to stick to the first four… it is the last one that gives them trouble.

Good old transparency… So what does it mean to be transparent? The definition I find most fitting is “free from guile; candid or open” (dictionary.com). So companies must make a commitment to be candid and open, which is the gift and the curse of social media.

If a company lacks transparency and has a loyal following, there is no doubt that the loyal followers will find flaws in the company messaging and realize something is being hidden from them. No one likes feeling “played” or like there is something they don’t know.

So how can you be sure you are being transparent?

Have nothing to hide. Transparency is the hardest for companies that cannot be honest due to a dishonest infrastructure. A social media is set on the core values so evaluate your company’s core values before making the commitment.

Decide to disclose all information (and decide which details need to be tweaked). Some good PR control over a company and their external communications will solve the problem of how to say things the right way and what not to say. A company should always be honest when it comes to the larger concepts, but small details might not necessarily need to be general knowledge.

Have a crisis social strategy ready. Be prepared to respond to any crisis issues with not only a traditional crisis plan, but also a social media crisis plan. Since social media is the best way to relay information real-time, it will be your quickest channel to respond to a crisis.

Have fun. Loosen up. Social media is all about sharing information with your users and allowing them to engage and interact. You are opening the doors of knowledge, so be obliging and let the communication flow and share about your company without being nervous users are going to know something they shouldn’t.

Being clear about your social media strategy from the beginning will allow for transparency. Be sure to plan well, follow the values and stop hiding…because if you try to hide, I guarantee they will find you.

Putting the “Social” back into “Social Media”

So social media is about being social—no surprise there, right?

Wrong if you are hanging out in this “social media space” not knowing what to do and simply maintaining a one-way Twitter or Facebook account.

Social media is as much about being proactive as being reactive.

In regard to Twitter, the key to maintaining a successful account people want to follow and engage with is engaging first.

Let’s take a look at an account I managed for the past six months.

(The account will remain unnamed.)

We began with 0 followers and are up to 3,400 in 180 days. The key to this account is engaging with followers by creating a discussion, answering those who ask questions, addressing those who send feedback, and thanking those who post images…and doing everything in between.

Being a consumer business, it would be very easy to put Twitter on auto-pilot and blast promotions and focus on products…but that was not the strategy. And that would not yield the results of having 3,400 people actively follow the account.

The social media strategy (and that is why you need a social media strategy) included building brand awareness and engaging with Guests through their social media channels of choice (Facebook, Twitter and MySpace). Twitter, being an intimate source of communication, was focused on managing the brand’s online reputation, creating brand visibility and responding to feedback. The consumers of the brand have a natural inclination to share ideas, images, stories and information and want a chance to “get something special” such as free products.

To get the dialogue started and a “buzz” going about the brand, engaging questions were posted on the account to evoke responses. A simple question, that was relevant to all consumers of the brand, was posed and yielded over 200 responses. The account also hosted contests for a chance to win free products and co-sponsored scavenger hunts with other Twitter accounts to create a longer period of engagement for that particular tactic.

On the reactive side, when there were mentions of the brand within the space, a reactive approach was initiated by engaging with the user and referring to the mention. If it was an issue or concern, the required follow-up steps were taken. If it was a mention of how much the user loved the products, a simple “thanks” was sent.

The Facebook fan page also took a proactive/reactive approach by allowing all fans to comment on all posts, which included commenting to win contests (my personal favorite was a caption contest—over 130 entries and over 250 interactions, and the contest lasted for two hours). The fan page hosts images and slyly adds certain ideas to gauge feedback as to what consumers want from the brand. Oh and it gained over 35,000 fans in the same time frame.

So what did you learn from this (I hope)?

You must decide on a focus for your social media strategy:
1. What do you want to accomplish through your efforts?
2. And more importantly, what will your audience be receptive to in this space?

Once your strategy is developed, to be “social” you must:
• Engage by being proactive first and manage the space by being reactive
• Give your readers/followers/fans what they want and allow them to provide feedback
• Be interesting, fun and never end up mundane, creativity has no limit!

…and this is how to put the “social” back into “social media.”

Make it easy… Social Media = Conversation

I read As Social Technologies Become Pervasive, Prepare Your Company this morning and completely agree with the points in this post.

As I work with more and more companies through my business (here’s the plug), Something Creative, LLC, and answer the question “what is social media?” and work to create strategies to answer “how can I use social media?” I realize companies really are embracing this concept.

…on the other hand, some of the key decision makers in these companies are still split–half want to embrace and the other half are still in the “convince me” mindset. A great point in the article (I guess I always thought about, but never thought to use to explain to others teetering on the edge of social media acceptance) is to emphasize that social media is a conversation. It is an online conversation using new technologies and new outlets. It is doing the same thing companies are doing (or maybe not doing…oops) and taking it online to reach an audience that might not be engaging in other ways and/or prefer to be engaged through this outlet.

Conversations make sense. No lead, sale or deal can be made without some sort of conversation. No reputation can be managed without a dialogue. An online conversation can prove to be just as (or more) valuable than an in-person or phone conversation.

So the moral is to make it easy. Compare new marketing with old marketing “buzz” words to show that marketing is still messaging (well dialogue), audience and channel, but with expansions on the definition of those concepts.

Using Social Media vs. Using a Social Media Strategy

I was on a call the other day with Dan Green and he made a statement that made me laugh and then sigh. He said “you know, today everything thinks they are a social media expert.” What I thought was going to follow was a statement about how I was one of those people (this was our first interaction). Instead he continued, “…but you understand the strategy and that’s what it takes to be successful.” Over conversation shifted and we began discussing how students, marketers and even some self-proclaimed social media experts just don’t get it. They [social media expert impersonators] think you need to use all the social networks possible at one time to blast your message, need to constantly promote formally and in accordance with a corporate image, and/or to be the first to land in each space…and that is not necessarily the case.

Using social media means engaging with your target audience through thoughtful channels and sending the messages that make the most sense. To do this, you must decide which channels are going to be most effective and then use them effectively! And as I always say, you can’t just be in the space, you have to be active in the space and meaningful to be effective. This might mean that your company will not benefit from a Facebook page as much as it will from a Twitter page…so you shift your priorities and focus. Or maybe the messages you send to your Twitter audience are different than those you send through MySpace.

A question that I constantly encounter is “How can I use Facebook [or insert another social media outlet]?”. The question I would rather hear is “How can I use social media for MY business?” and that is where I can step in and know this client is looking for a strategy and not just implementing tactics without guidance.

Now don’t get me wrong. Sometimes you just have to jump into a space, test the waters and make a splash. Then you have to evaluate the splash and see where it went, how quickly it rippled and how quickly it died (if it does) then revisit and craft the strategy. What I love about social media is that it is constantly changing and maybe what worked six months ago isn’t working today and marketing efforts need to be shifted. Or maybe a new angle has come about and the company can benefit from the use of a new channel. Nothing is set in stone.

There is always…. something creative coming down the pipes and endless opportunities.

Managing search.twitter.com

The Twitter search function is optimal for companies interested in monitoring what is being said and who is saying what about their brand on Twitter.

Here are a few things I learned about using search.twitter.com for a brand:

1. It is better to reply to someone after they mention your brand, rather than just following them. It is an even better idea to wait for them to follow you before you first. Real life example: There was a positive brand mention for an account I was working on and I decided to follow the person. I also replied to them after following. They blocked me and made another mention that it was “creepy” that I knew they wrote about the brand and then I followed them. Changing my strategy, I sent replies to new mentions of the brand before following and got a much more positive response (no one else blocked me…so far).

2. Set up a Tweetbeep account. Tweetbeep will allow you to received mentions of your brand via email (once every hour, once a day, etc.) instead of manually monitoring search.twitter.com. You set the criteria and can search for as many words or phrases you wish. You will also have documented results in your email.

3. Also be sure to search your @name. If you don’t, there might be some third-party mentions you will miss (i.e. someone might be tweeting about you and not at you). Sometimes these mentions are just as important as a one-on-one dialogue exchange. Some of these messages deserve recognition and/or need to be addressed.

4. You can also use other “trigger words” and search for those to give you grounds for deciding to follow certain people based on interests. It takes a little bit of reading and scanning to be sure the mention is relevant so it is good to stay on top of this type of search.

Search.twitter.com is the best searching source for Twitter (in my opinion) when monitoring brand mentions. For other searches, Twibs (businesses on Twitter), Twellow (search for people based on keywords) and Twittergrader (finding influential Tweeps based on geography) will do the job.

Sidenote: The Twitter search function also offers the ability to add your search through an RSS feeds and use the advanced search options to better target what you are looking for, so use these options to receive direct results and to narrow criteria.

See you later, MySpace

Working with new clients to create social media campaigns starts with the question, “What is your goal?” and leads to “Which outlets are going to be most effective and which are secondary?”

A goal of creating awareness in the social space means you need to determine the intended audience and decide where they are spending their time. Are they on Facebook? And are they ACTIVE on Facebook? The answer to both is probably yes due to the interactive appeal of Facebook and the pushing of messages through the newsfeed and availability of interesting applications.

Are they on MySpace? Are they ACTIVE on MySpace? The answer to the former is probably yes and most likely the latter will yield a no.

Why is this?

My thought is that MySpace was the first big social media networking space that paved the way for Facebook to make a splash. Since Facebook was only offered to students when it was introduced, others who wanted to adopt this activity opted for MySpace feeling it was the only option–therefore profiles were created and MySpace kept it presence.

After Facebook opened its doors to everyone, and MySpace was purchased by Newscorp in 2005, the market shifted and everyone was hanging out on Facebook abandoning their MySpace presence. It did take a bit for people to adopt and embrace Facebook if they did not join in college because the thought was “that is just for college kids, right?”

But now, MySpace is commercialized with ads inundating your login and welcome screen. Businesses create MySpace pages that become second Web sites with high-quality graphics and backgrounds. The messages are interrupted with noise from advertisers, crazy customization and spammers by the dozen.

So should companies abandon MySpace?

If companies are on MySpace, they should stay there and monitor the account and stay “somewhat active,” but their efforts will be better spent creating a blog, updating their Facebook pages or using my personal favorite, Twitter 🙂

Twitter Query Answered: Use a brand or a person to represent the brand?

This morning on twitter, I posted the question, “When using social media, does it make more sense to use a brand, or use a person who represents a brand?” In 10 minutes I received seven responses. Obviously, I am not the only one who has encountered this dilemma.

This topic has been weighing heavily on my mind since becoming very involved in social media and using it for businesses. I began by promoting myself and learning how to use social media by using my own name and profile to garner business as a marketing consultant specializing in social media. I offered my services, and my social media interactions and usage became my “real time” portfolio. People were interested in me because I offered some sort of value and wasn’t just pushing a brand on them; I was providing information and insights. I just also happen to offer consulting services and some felt I knew what I was doing by following me and viola!

After working on a few business campaigns, I found myself encountering the obstacle of facing companies that only wanted a corporate branded account with no name or association with a real person. This was a good approach for some brand visibility and awareness, but the “buzz” soon started to fizzle. I found the anonymity fostered the social media space to become just a platform for promotions—and that is not social media and not necessarily what people want. The interactions depleted and with social media “if you don’t use it, you lose it.”

When an influential person, or someone of interest, was put behind the brand, the account became more about the person and their value rather than the value of the brand and others were more accepting.

My solution then became, make two…or three! There is nothing wrong with creating more than one account to hit different audiences and serve different purposes. Let’s use twitter as an example…

If my company has a brand and I want to create a twitter account, I should go ahead and do it. I can then target specific people based on my intended audience and gather followers who will find value from my tweets. I might add a promotion here and there, maybe some videos showing the internal culture and other tweets that provide relevant information. I might also have a social media person or the CEO add an account. This person should make the account as personal as possible, but also mention they are a part of the brand and keep that in mind when tweeting. Because different audiences want different things from twitter, there is not a single solution except to listen and observe the social space and craft your plan to reach your targets how they want to be approached.

@spurdave pointed out… “The Red Cross and National Wildlife Federation @NWF do this well. @clairesale @starfocus http://budurl.com/j4ct.”

This solution is even stronger when creating blogs. Not many people are so brand loyal as to want to read a blog about a specific product, but maybe they do want insights from the CEO, Social Media Manager or HR person. More than one can be created (and maintained) and they can link to each other offering an array of information with different perspectives and ideas.

So thanks to @prebynski @HomerSmith @ryanstephens @spurdave @noahcohen @stevebencsics and @Energy_Geek for the feedback.